Housekeeping: The Ethics Of Undercover Snooping

Bertel Schmitt
by Bertel Schmitt
housekeeping the ethics of undercover snooping

Since it seems to be Housekeeping Day, here an email from someone who hides behind a Gmail address, who does not sign his mail, and who calls us unethical .

Mr Anonymous writes:

“I’m writing this in response to Mr.Derek Kreindler method of acquiring the Aston Martin V8 Vantage for his recent review.

Mr.Kreindler stated while he was at the dealership, he pretended to be a well to do business man so that he can get his hand on the vehicle for a test drive. I won’t have a problem with this if he was actually comparing vehicles for his purchase. That’s how car buying goes, if you don’t like it, you don’t buy it. It’s quite obvious that this is not the case.

I know people do this all the time, but I don’t expect an editor from TTAC to do so. What he did is basically stealing a salesman time and hope. The time that he could have spent on other customers, and the hope of making a living. I just need to ask TTAC one question, how would you like it if you were the salesman? The fact that this article was published tells me that TTAC have no ethical standard in this arena.

Perhaps, you might think that I’m a salesman myself and took this personally. I have never been in the sales business, but I will call out an unethical conduct when I see one. “

Dear Mr. Anonymous:

I don’t call that unethical, I call that showing initiative. When I was young, I was in the investigative reporting business, and I operated as ethically as an undercover vice cop. Compared to that, what Derek did was benign.

If not buying a car after a test drive is stealing a salesman’s time and hope, then some 70 percent of people who ask for a test drive would be criminals. Last I looked, wasting someone’s time and robbing someone’s hope was not against the law. I wish it were, I could launch thousands of lawsuits. I see huge class action suits against politicians, corporations, presumptive employers, alleged lovers. The concept would make divorce proceedings very interesting:

“You cheated!”

“You wasted 25 years of my time and stole my hope for happiness. Let’s call it quits.”

I tell you what is unethical: Giving ringers to journalists. Carmakers who insist that only official press cars should be tested often have something to hide. A car for a test drive should show the best sides of the car.

Having said that, our first approach will always be to get a press car. If we don’t get one, dealers, friends, rental car agencies are fair game.

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2 of 56 comments
  • Ravenchris Ravenchris on May 06, 2012

    Showing initiative. I am disappointed.

  • LetItBe LetItBe on May 09, 2012

    Warning: this piece is lengthy. --End of Warning-- I've just reread Derek's post. Here's what we can't accuse him of. 1. Not letting the salesman see other customers: He arranged for a Saturday morning test drive. The specific time is unmentioned but he does describe that the roads are clear. We can interpret this to mean negligible to exactly zero "drop-in" test drivers(who will then sign all the papers needed to walk away with their purchase that same day). The fact the arrangement was agreed upon shows that there were no prior and conflicting appointments with the same salesman. We don't know if Derek also had the salesman's concerns in mind but we can be reasonably sure he didn't jeopardise his ability to earn his income with that particular test drive. 2. Being a worse person than us: He has done what a lot of us have wanted to but had no idea how. Derek made up a vending machine business background(and advised wearing an expensive watch) in order to persuade his salesman. He does not mention what else was done, presumably(but not conclusively) because it wasn't. He has done what most of us think of doing and what some do regularly. As a side-note, I'd say it's worth comparing what Derek did with what Jack Baruth recommended, through his source. Mr. Anonymous, if you really are in the sales business, I believe it reflects more positively upon you to accept this as a job hazard and work out a plan around it. Your job is to find whoever is going to contractually oblige themselves to product/service you are selling regardless of what others think about it. If someone like Jack Baruth asks you to calculate installments while he takes your test drive unit for a spin, you either live with it or you find a way to get his pen right on the dotted line before you hand the keys. Or just make sure you surf here often so that you know when one of them shows up. I'd let them review it honestly, if I were you. It's your colleagues in product development and the accountants who need to make sure they don't put a million dollar price tag on a piece of shiny crap. The sooner they know it, the sooner they can focus on building something of quality. It's fair to call out on a salesman who is either too inexperienced or too petty to let an issue like this be. As for whether we might as well launch lawsuits for other kinds of contestable offences, why not review the laws we have already agreed upon prior and ask ourselves which offences we can live with and which we wouldn't. If we can no longer tell the difference, then how can we say that our attempts at justice are more than just settling any old score, that we aren't using "might is right" to justify ourselves? Knowing the difference is why we have ethics in the first place. And a court system.

  • Tassos ask me if I care.
  • ToolGuy • Nice vehicle, reasonable price, good writeup. I like your ALL CAPS. 🙂"my mid-trim EX tester is saddled with dummy buttons for a function that’s not there"• If you press the Dummy button, does a narcissist show up spouting grandiose comments? Lol.
  • MaintenanceCosts These are everywhere around here. I'm not sure the extra power over a CR-V hybrid is worth the fragile interior materials and the Kia dealership experience.
  • MaintenanceCosts It's such a shame about the unusable ergonomics. I kind of like the looks of this Camaro and by all accounts it's the best-driving of the current generation of ponycars. A manual 2SS would be a really fun toy if only I could see out of it enough to drive safely.
  • ToolGuy Gut feel: It won't sell all that well as a new vehicle, but will be wildly popular in the used market 12.5 years from now.(See FJ Cruiser)